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Importer: Focus on price limits Fair Trade flower sales

“Supermarket buyers pay extremely close attention to margins and are catering to America’s very price-sensitive consumers,” said Alaina Paradise, owner of One World Flowers in Denver, stating why she thinks Fair Trade flowers have not caught on in supermarkets here. Since 2007, One World has imported Fair Trade flowers exclusively, currently from farms in Ecuador.

Fair Trade flowers, introduced here in 2007, are mainly sold in high-end supermarket chains like Whole Foods. Ten percent of the Fair Trade sales price to wholesalers and importers goes to worker groups at Fair Trade farms who vote to use the money for projects such as a well, a clinic or bicycles for transportation. Fair Trade requirements also include environmental protection, better working conditions, and access to health care and education for workers and families.

Supermarkets could sell more Fair Trade flowers by targeting stores with consumer incomes and social values that support the Fair Trade brand, Paradise believes, and telling their customers what Fair Trade is and why they should support it.

FAIR-TRADE1013-WORKER-FEMALA worker at a Fair Trade flower farm in Ecuador wraps bunches of roses for shipment. Most workers at Fair Trade farms are female, and flower farms are often the main source of jobs in rural areas. A 10 percent premium for Fair Trade flower sales goes back to worker groups for community projects they select.“Most supermarkets have conditioned their customers to look for $9.99/dozen rose specials and other deals that are sold to consumers on one simple value proposition: They’re cheap! Over decades, the market has been conditioned to buy cheap, and those values just aren’t compatible with the quality and fair prices of Fair Trade flowers,” Paradise told The Produce News.

“With that sort of standard set, it’s nearly impossible for the average supermarket to bring in higher-priced Fair Trade flowers and suddenly change its value proposition to fair wages, environmental sustainability and quality for a higher price,” she asserted.

“It’s not that they are against Fair Trade values in any way; I’ve had many requests from supermarkets for our flowers,” she explained. “However, they ask for ‘landed’ prices, delivered to their stores, of six cents to eight cents per stem. That’s less than the farm’s cost, and precisely why the Fair Trade program is needed so badly in the floral industry.”

Supermarkets can target stores where customers have incomes and social values that would support Fair Trade flowers, she suggested. “Fair Trade consumers are out there, they’re just not in every store in large enough numbers to convert your whole chain to a higher-priced product set. Develop a targeted marketing campaign, stock the new Fair Trade flowers in appropriate stores, eliminate the cheapest options and tell your customers why you’re doing it,” she advised.

Providing point-of-sale materials and communicating the social values is important, she emphasized, “but targeting the right stores with the appropriate socio-economic demographics is key.”

In a recent GlobeScan survey asking consumers about the international Fair Trade logo, 60 percent of those responding were familiar with it, and 90 percent of those trusted the claims of fair wages and environmental protection behind it, she noted. “The European market has proven consumers there are willing to pay more for the values of Fair Trade,” Paradise added.

In the U.S., she said, Fair Trade products like coffee and chocolate that have been on the market longer have proved they will sell at higher prices.